The primary function of the medulla oblongata is to control autonomic functions throughout the body. It controls things like heartbeat, breathing and digestion.
The medulla oblongata sends signals to the spinal cord and thalamus to control bodily functions. It is responsible for the respiration and circulation throughout the body, and it handles everything from breathing to vomiting.
Several arteries like the anterior spinal artery and the posterior inferior cerebellar artery supply this part of the brain with a steady blood flow. It contains myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibers, also called white and gray matter.
Considering the tasks the medulla oblongata is responsible for, it is easily the most important part of the brain. Any injury or disease affecting this part of the brain can result in paralysis of the opposite side of the body, loss of pain and temperature sensations, loss of the gag reflex and difficulty swallowing.
The medulla oblongata is also responsible for controlling arousal and sleep, and it controls movement. It is located at the base in the brain stem along with the midbrain and the pons. Other areas of the brain stem control other functions, like facial and cranial nerves, and help to transmit signals from the brain to other nerves in the body, primarily, the spinal cord.